Dance is Living, as the title suggest is about dance and life or more profoundly the dance of life.
The questions that I constantly found myself meditating over for years as research before going on to writing this piece, was what is dance? where does dance come from? did we create dance or a dance create us? and why does it exist?
For those that do not know me or my story, My name is Baris. I began my journey into a ‘legitimate’ movement form through the art of Mcing (also commonly regarded as Rapping, the connections between the two I will write and post about another time). Today I recognise that I wasalways a natural ‘mover’, just like all of us once were, before we were told we had no rhythm, that dance was something else, not for us but for someone else. That it was something beside our selves. That you couldn't be a ballerino or ballerina because you didn't start from the age of 2 and even if you did that your body type is not right for it, that unfortunately you just don't posses the correct genetics.
Ever since then with the help of education we convinced ourselves that we were not good enough to do it or were not ‘born’ to dance. So we gave up on this notion early on. Only to find ourselves years down the line slightly tipsy in bar holding a glass and awkwardly trying to move to the sound loud music with the hope of not embarrassing ourselves too much. Then for a second loosing ourselves and being surprised at how good it felt to move, but then… quickly going back to confirming what we were told and made to believe was right. That dance is not for us, its done by those professionals, the companies. That dance is a ‘style’ or taught in some ‘institution’, or that it is done somewhere away from you, and different to what you do and who you are.
I find these ideas as a big miseducation and misunderstanding of what dance is and I believe it to stem partly due to ’productization’ or ‘monetization’ of dance by ‘show business’, the ‘entertainment industry’ , the ‘established’ institutions and also to the compartmentalisation of not only the arts in general but of our own disconnection from one another, nature and from our own history as humanity. Quite frankly at the root of it all when its all said and done, we are all natural movers.
We are born to move.
Movement is not only necessary for our survival, but is an expression of our intelligence and has been since the beginning of our species.
Just think about it, before spoken language there was body language. Movement was necessary to learn, hunt, defend/attack, discover, invent, reproduce, worship/praise, experiment, experience and most importantly communicate.
Movement is our innate instinct, its our embodied experiences and as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than than words’.
Movement through body language was and to some extent still is our most powerful way of communicating. We can display all our most inherent and important emotions without the use of any words and unlike words, body language is universal and a little bit more difficult to hide behind as its more transparent compared to words.
Movement is our common human language and we can recognise this in the similarities (and differences) of movement behaviour which can be seen across cultures all over the world.
Movement creates culture, and culture creates movement this is a intertwining dance that constantly continues to evolve with us. This is ever so apparent today, that we even describe the rise of a new popular idea as a ‘movement’ as these ideas and beliefs affect our behaviour as a collective.
Your probably thinking, so then where does movement come from? My opinion as the opening line suggests ‘The dance is living’. Life. Source of all. Creation. The primordial waters. Then what about music? Movement on its own is not a dance right? This all is expressed in the second line, I believe ‘music is in all, to hear it all you need to do is give in and allow your self to fall’.
Today modern science goes to prove the messages sent to us that continue to echo from the ages. From the muslim mystic, sage and poet Rumi to the ancestors who walked before him in ancient Kemet (Egypt)/Nubia who also believed that the universe is in a constant dance, that everything is in constant motion and vibration.
Vibration is the rhythm, beat, harmony the music. Music is everywhere not just something found on iTunes or at a concert or created by a conventional instruments. Music is in the heart, the breath, the voice, the hands, the feet. Music is in the ticking of the clock, the kettle boiling, the rain drops tapping on the windowsill, the sound of workmen working, the police horses trotting, the cars passing, market traders repeatedly decelerating their offers, kids playing in the playground, birds singing, bees buzzing, the music is in and all thats round us, even in silence. After a ‘deafening silence’ its sometimes even louder and more clear for us to hear the constant rhythm of our own heart and breath.
The first and only instrument we must learn how to play, study and use is the human body, as it’s our body which plays all the other instruments, that is until those instruments the body plays can then in turn play ‘through’ the body.
It’s all a dance and dance is a language of the soul, messages unveiled from unseen realms, poetry in motion.
When we follow this trail we see that in most cultures in the current ‘developing’ world that work, music, dance, celebration, ritual and prayer actually intertwine greatly.
Dance before being institutionalised was folklore - ‘folk’ meaning the people and ‘lore’ a body of traditions/myth of a group of people. It was our way of telling stories and performing ritual practices in our attempt to connect the inner and outer worlds, to become one. Hidden within most folkloric dances were the stories of our past. Through music, movement and Dance, Dancers bodies would transform into a ‘living book’ bringing the past to life. Movements were deemed sacred as they were embedded with powerful messages from the past, they were more than just mere steps to be learned and regurgitated in choreography therefore had to be embodied. This process of embodiment engraved ancestral wisdom in the cells, genes, and the nervous system of the community. Folkloric dances served as a way that our ancestors could accurately transmit and preserve the ‘essence’ of their wisdom from one generation to another. Making information more difficult to corrupt, and easier to recall while connecting and unifying the community as majority of folkloric dance was a communal activity.
Take a look at any ritual practice that exists today from prayers, initiations to oaths and you will find the same formula again and again, a ‘declaration’ followed by a bodily gesture of some sort or visa versa. The reason? because it is movement + intention = conviction. Movement is the seal between the inner and outer worlds. The point in which we begin or end something must be honest, from our true self or we will be likely to be at dis-ease, engulfed in fear or another emotion of its manifestation which will have negative consequences to our actions in the future. Ancestors cultures where very aware of this and so still to this day shamanic, native and indigenous cultures regularly use music and dance in purification and healing rituals.
Looking across the animal kingdom and we can see how animals dance while performing mating rituals, and us humans of course follow suit as we also have our own special ceremonial dances.
To hear music and ‘really’ dance we have to let go of what we think about ourselves. In native ancestral cultures dances can last for hours and are used to cleanse, gain insight/meditate, unify with nature, to transcend and tap in to a timeless space that resides in all of us. I describe this as the falling sensation, where mind activity slows down. ‘a place where time and space seizes to exist’, and as we dance here its as if we where carried. Here is bliss no stress no worries no pain no mind, whats happened has happened its all happening ‘now’ this is all. Until we find this world a ‘whole again’ ‘right there just as it is’.
Its is through these inner and outer body transcendental experiences that the dancer awakens the ‘inner eye’ which can give an ‘inner sight’ or insight into their true self.
This is a totally different concept from that which we see in modern forms of dance and its by products, the shows, steps, styles, methods and choreographies focused on form and appearances. Dance is mystical. Spiritual. It is for all, universal, belongs to no one, it is of nature, creation. Even if you haven’t realised by now, your in the dance already and have been dancing awhile now. The dance is living.
For those interested in further reading here are some references, interesting reads and articles.
Gioia, Ted. Work Songs. USA: Duke University Press, 2006
Gioia,Ted. Healing Songs. USA: Duke University Press, 2006
Mithen, Steven.The Singing Neanderthals. Harvard University Press, 2007
Downey, Greg Jr. USA. OUP USA. Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art, 2005.
Rūmī, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad. Poem Of The Atoms. Metal Gaia. Available at:
Babies are born to dance: LiveScience. available from:
Survival dance: LiveScience. Available at:
Music and movement share a dynamic structure that supports universal expressions of emotion: Proceedings of the National Academy of sciences of the United States of America. Available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/110/1/70.full.pdf